Citizen journalism is a phenomenon that is arguably revolutionising the media industry; now anyone with a smartphone can effectively become a journalist and major news organisations have seen the potential for capitalising on this pool of untapped talent. CNN was one of the first news agencies to launch a major initiative to engage with potential citizen journalists, this initiative was called iReport.
iReport started in 2006 when, as Mallory Tenore of Poynter reports, one of the first contributions to the citizen journalism site was a picture of a squirrel lounging in the sun. Things have changed a bit since then. iReport has become a valuable tool for CNN journalists and the redesign aims to connect reporters with those people who are most likely to help them with a specific story.
The new look iReport site is designed to appear and operate more like a social network than a news website. Users have profiles, like the one shown above that belongs to Ecotraveler, one of iReport's most active users. The profiles feature iReport statistics - how many articles have been uploaded, how many of these uploads have been used on CNN, how many page views they have received - and badges awarded for participation. Users can also join groups and display them on their profile to show they are interested in a particular field.
This new format not only rewards user engagement, but also means that CNN can find citizen journalists who are not only willing to help them, but who are in the right place at the right time and interested in the right subjects to cover a particular story. In a community that is so large, attracting around 2.5 million unique users each month, it is easy to cast the net too wide; therefore, creating a community that is more easily divisible by interest, location and willingness to contribute will make the system of finding a help from citizen journalists far more efficient.
Collecting profiles of CNN's most avid users also provides the company with a huge amount of data regarding its audience and will shape the perception of what the CNN audience wants from their news service, providing the broadcaster with an insight into the issues that its audience cares about.